CGD in the News

2011 Foreign Aid Cuts Not as Great as Feared (Inter Press Service)

April 19, 2011

Sarah Jane Staats was quoted in an Inter Press Service article on the FY2011 Budget.

From the Article

WASHINGTON, Apr 14, 2011 (IPS) - While the State Department's overall 2011 international affairs budget was cut sharply from President Barack Obama's initial request, humanitarian and development groups are expressing some relief at the final result given the current political climate.

The 2011 continuing resolution (CR) that emerged last Friday after weeks of difficult negotiations, and which is expected to be formally approved by both houses Thursday, provides a total of 48.3 billion dollars for international affairs funding this fiscal year, which ends Sep. 30.

While that was 8.4 billion dollars less than the 56-billion-dollar request Obama submitted 13 months ago, it marked a cut of only about half a billion dollars from baseline 2010 spending levels. And it was 3.3 billion dollars more than the version that was approved in February by the Republican-led House of Representatives, HR 1.

"The worst of the harsh and damaging cuts to international affairs accounts proposed in HR 1 were avoided," said Samuel Worthington, president of InterAction, a coalition of some 180 humanitarian and development non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

"At the same time, we are mindful of the fact that American interests and values call on us to do better," he added. "Political turmoil and U.S. economic and strategic interests underscore that America needs to be more engaged in international affairs, not less."

It appeared that lawmakers who forged the final deal split the difference between HR 1 and the Senate version of the CR, which was considerably more generous, albeit less so than Obama's original request.

With respect to official development assistance (ODA) and funding for some multilateral agencies, overall cuts were not as great as many had feared.

In fact, a bipartisan favourite, the global health accounts, which includes programmes for child survival, family planning, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, actually received a modest increase in funding over last year's appropriation – to a total of nearly eight billion dollars.

Bilateral development assistance (DA), which includes programmes for agriculture, food security, micro-finance, water and sanitation, biodiversity and climate change, received roughly the same amount as last year – about 2.5 billion dollars. That was about 15 percent below Obama's request but 42 percent more than had been included in the Republican's HR 1 version of the bill.

The CR also includes 865 million dollars, or a two percent increase, for international disaster assistance spending over 2010 levels, effectively doubling the amount included in HR 1.

On the other hand, bilateral migration and refugee assistance was cut by nearly 10 percent, to 1.7 billion dollars, compared to 2010, although that total was some 600 million dollars more than the total approved by the Republican-led House.

Similarly, the 1.7 billion dollars for international food aid programmes represents an 11 percent cut from Obama's request and a 17 percent reduction from 2010.

Indeed, some programmes and institutions will be forced to make substantial adjustments, especially in light of the fact that the cuts must now be telescoped into the mere five and a half months that remain in the fiscal year.

Those will include, for example, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an aid programme initiated by former President George W. Bush that provides grant aid for poor countries that are making major progress in implementing democratic and economic reforms.

Lawmakers agreed on a 900-million-dollar budget for the MCC for 2011, 380 million dollars less than what Obama requested and 205 million dollars less than it received in 2010.

"The cut will force the MCC to make difficult choices," according to Sarah Jane Staats of the Center for Global Development here.

She predicted that recent agreements for hundreds of million dollars in aid for Indonesia and Cape Verde could be hardest hit, but that Zambia and Malawi could also be affected.

Read the Article